Magnetic Resonance Imaging

The University of Minnesota Medical School develops and utilizes some of the most advanced magnetic resonance techniques and instrumentation in the world to help understand some of the most complex diseases.

The Medical School's Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) is an interdepartmental, interdisciplinary research laboratory which provides unique, state-of-the-art instrumentation, expertise, and infrastructure for magnetic resonance (MR) based biomedical research.

CMRR pioneered some of the most advanced MR instrumentation and imaging techniques available in the world, including imaging of human brain activity with MR (fMRI), unique imaging methods, and ultrahigh magnetic fields (7 Tesla and above) for MR imaging and spectroscopy studies in humans. 7 Tesla, the most advanced commercially available human scanner was first developed in CMRR. The world’s largest human MR scanner, operating at 10.5 Tesla, is currently under development in CMRR.

Collectively, these instruments and approaches constitute some of the most important tools used today to study system level organ function and physiology in humans for basic and translational research, and are increasingly applied worldwide.

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The Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) focuses on development of unique magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy methodologies and instrumentation which is used for the acquisition of structural, functional, and biochemical information non-invasively in humans. Utilizing this capability, CMRR investigators uncover organ function in health and disease. It was initially funded as a Biotechnology Research Center (BTRC) by the National Center for Research Resources but it has been supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering since 2012. The distinctive feature of this center is the emphasis on ultrahigh magnetic fields (7 Tesla and above), which was pioneered by this BTRC.

A network of core imaging facility locations for advanced optical imaging and basic electron microscopy located on the Twin Cities campus. Noted as a Nikon Center of Excellence.


Thomas Vaughan, PhD, is a professor in the Departments of Radiology, Electrical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Minnesota and he administers the Engineering Core of the CMRR. As the principal investigator for the Engineering Core of the CMRR, Vaughan played leading roles in the advancement of MRI from 2 Tesla, 4 Tesla, 7 Tesla, 9.4 Tesla, and now 10.5 Tesla field strengths for human biomedical research.

Vaughan and his team have also advanced the practice of safety in MRI from simply monitoring RF power absorption in cartoon models of anatomy to validated, accurate, and precise predictions of temperature in living humans.

Most recently, Vaughan and his colleague Michael Garwood, PhD, are working on President Obama's BRAIN Initiative to conceive new "out-of-the-box" approaches to research the human brain and mind. Their idea is to create a portable, affordable, and remotely supportable MRI system for neuro-imaging that can be taken out of the well-funded science lab or big-city hospital, and to the towns, schools, and field clinics of the rest of the world—including the developing world, which heretofore has had no access to MRI.

Vaughan is a fellow of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine and the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He has numerous university patents for his pioneering MRI work licensed to industry.


Kamil Ugurbil, PhD, is the director and founder of CMRR and holds the McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair Professorship in Radiology, Neurosciences, and Medicine. Ugurbil’s primary research involves imaging brain function and connectivity with MR techniques at ultrahigh magnetic fields (7 Tesla and higher), mechanisms underlying functional mapping signals in fMRI, and the development of high-frequency RF instrumentation for ultrahigh-field MR imaging in humans.

Ugurbil is the recipient of Richard Ernst Medal, the Gold Medal from the International Society of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and is a member of the Institute of Medicine, the National Academies (USA) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (USA).

With Ugurbil’s guidance, CMRR has evolved into one of the world’s foremost leaders in MR instrumentation, MR imaging techniques, and the use of these capabilities in biomedical research.